The first wide release in the United States (and pretty much the rest of the world), since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, director Derek Borte’s Unhinged arrives with much more fanfare than usually befits this type of film. A B-movie with an A-list star, Russell Crowe chews the scenery in this gritty and violent thriller which ultimately fails to register due to its lack of depth.
Crowe plays Tom Cooper, a driver who takes umbrage when Caren Pistorius’s Rachel honks her horn too hard when a light turns green. Cooper follows the recently divorced single mother, takes her phone and continues to create havoc throughout the day leaving bodies and countless damaged cars strewn in his wake. He was never ‘hinged’ to begin with.
Unlike films like Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down (1993) and Roger Michell’s Changing Lanes (2002), Unhinged doesn’t really attempt to delve into the deeper intricacies of why Crowe’s character is so…er…Unhinged. Sure, we’re told that his wife has divorced him and that he’s lost his job, but apart from that scant exposition, we know next to nothing about him. Crowe has fun in the role, letting loose as the unstoppable Terminator-like man who appears to take great pleasure in causing death and destruction. Having said that, he’s not playing a character, just a walking plot device for Borte and screenwriter Carl Ellsworth. Caren Pistorius is so-so as the single mother suffering Crowe’s wrath, but I just didn’t but the 29 year old actress as the mother of a 15 year old boy. In a film with a lot of far-fetched coincidences and plot points, this might be the hardest one to believe.
Unhinged is competently staged by Borte and he knows how to deliver some impressive automotive carnage. The film make good use of its New Orleans location and Brendan Galvin’s cinematography has a claustrophobic quality which helps add some tension to proceedings.
Ultimately however, the plot of Unhinged is just too slight to engage its audience and a lot of the events are telegraphed way in advance – subtle is not a word that you would use to describe the thriller. At a little over ninety minutes, Unhinged doesn’t outstay to welcome, but this is hardly a film that any one will remember after the credits have rolled. At least Russell Crowe is committed to delivering a punchy and eye-bulging performance. It’s a far cry from Gladiator, but he’s Unhinged’s main selling point.